Do you know what a Christmas cracker is?
I had never heard of it until I went to my first English Christmas dinner. It was the Christmas dinner for young adults at my church in early December last year. When I sat down I saw there were some sorts of napkin rings on every table but I didn’t think much of it and I was engaged in friendly conversation when the word “crackers” was shouted out, something like “let’s crack the crackers!” and everybody took the napkin rings and held hands and I was promptly urged to do the same. Confused and under pressure I did as everyone and crack boom the napkin rings break with the sound of a firework and there’re things in it. It’s actually not a napkin ring at all, it’s a “cracker” and inside you will find a small cheap gift, an unfunny joke (maybe just a sentence then) and a paper crown that everybody wears immediately. The excitement is at its highest and everyone is sharing jokes/sentences and showing each other’s gifts, all of that paper crowned. I turn to my friend with a large smile and obvious bewilderment in my eyes and she says : “Aah I didn’t tell you about the Christmas crackers! ”
Have you ever heard of mince pies?
It’s a small pie, smaller than your hand that is made of fruity bitter mixture rolled in a pastry and shaped like a tiny pie. It will be served at every Christmassy occasions you will attend in the UK. It’s been part of the English tradition for centuries and hasn’t left the English tables despite its unsavoury taste (but can be sometimes be deliciously disappointing). When you’ll be trying British cuisine it will be good for you to remember that England is the country that came up with beans on toasts so you don’t set your culinary expectations to high.
Do you have a Christmas jumper?
A Christmas jumper is a must-have in England. You must have more than one because you will be expected to wear them all throughout December. A Christmas jumper is a warm jumper with a Christmas related motif such as reindeers, santa claus, snow flake, Christmas tree… Bright red is the dominant colour but of course green and white will be part of the composition. When you will go Christmas jumper shopping (and you must) don’t go for a plain and sober jumper, don’t trust your fashion sense or your eyes and buy the most kitsch and tacky jumper you can find and wear it proudly. Lights and 3D knitting will make your friends smile and burst with envy. Don’t be someone’s stumbling block and stay simple; bright red and Christmas motif.
If you don’t want an English Christmas this year, you must come to my house in France on the 24th (our Christmas dinner in France is on Christmas eve and not on Christmas day), we’ll serve you a paste made of fattened goose known as “foie gras”. You can’t tell me it’s cruel until you’ve tried it! Yes it will still be cruel though…
Any other suggestion for the first Christmas in England guide? Leave a comment.